James Bond vs the iGent, Part 1: Rules, Conventions and Taste


The term iGent—short for internet gentleman—is used to describe people who discuss tailored clothing on the internet and/or post photos of themselves in tailored clothing on the internet. The word is usually used in a derogatory manner, though I am not using it as such since it describes me perfectly. Some of these iGents dress more fashionably, such as wearing too-tight suits without socks (the #menswear crowd), while others believe in following a strict set of rules on how to dress based on a certain idea of the golden age of menswear. This series of articles will focus on the latter of these so-called iGents and their rules. While there is nothing wrong with following these rules, James Bond does not adhere to all of them and some of these rules were never even part of James Bond’s 1960s-to-present English culture.

The iGent rules I am referring to are based on 1930s and 1940s Anglo-American menswear fashions and conventions. Alan Flusser, who is a great menswear historian, bases much of what he writes on these conventions and is an inspiration for iGents. Most of these conventions are still relevant for dressing in tailored clothes. They’re a great place to start, but they don’t need to be strictly followed as some were never followed by even the best-dressed men of the 20th century. Many rules presented by Flusser or by online style experts are more limited than or are not entirely representative of the style conventions of the past, as Bond’s differences with them demonstrate.

Bond is following historic inter-war black tie conventions in Tomorrow Never Dies, which is unusual for Bond

Dressing well is about following certain rules, considering historical and contemporary conventions and having good taste. iGents may state conventions and certain tastes as rules of dressing well, but there are many different ways one can dress and still dress well that iGents don’t consider because they might believe there is only one way to dress well or they may have specific tastes that disagree with other schools of thought. I myself may not be as open as I should be to styles I don’t like, but part of that is human nature.

Rules of how to dress well exist for a reason, but iGents often take rules too far. Rules exist for a reason. Following a rule may mean adhering to a dress code as a way to maintain order in society. Acting appropriately in society is generally a gentlemanly thing to do, though breaking a rule of how to dress can be a method of protesting society, if that is the goal. Other rules are more about appreciating our clothes, such as buttoning a suit jacket the way it is cut to be buttoned. Rules make it easier to dress well. Breaking a rule would be a faux pas. But not everything that people say about how to dress is a rule. Sometimes people will state conventions, customs and personal tastes as rules.

A convention is like rule but is more of a custom or a guideline that doesn’t need to be followed as strictly as a rule. Not following a convention isn’t a faux pas. Bond follows the British convention or custom of wearing black shoes with his blue and grey suits, though dark brown shoes may also be acceptable with these suits. Bond also follows the convention of wearing white or light-coloured shirts with his suits as they nicely complement most suits and help draw attention to the face, but it’s possible for someone to wear an unconventional dark shirt with a suit if they can prevent the shirt from clashing with the suit. That involves a sophisticated level of taste. Knowing conventions and the historical reasons for them can help us dress better and provide a reliable starting place for dressing well, but breaking away from conventions is a way add individuality.

Bond using his taste to pick neck ties in Live and Let Die

Taste is more personal and is about how we apply various stylistic customs and how we balancing styles, patterns and colours. Bond shows good taste by wearing shirt collars that flatter his face, by making his ties with knots that balance his shirt collars and by not combining many busy patterns, amongst many other things. The literary Bond’s dislike of Windsor knots is a personal taste. An oversized, loosely tied Windsor knot is often considered to lack taste, but a moderately sized Windsor knot still can be tasteful to many, even if Bond still doesn’t like it. My own tastes have been influenced by James Bond, though being an American I was first introduced to clothing through my American father’s preppy tastes, which have a few differences from Bond’s.

I present many of the rules and conventions of dressing well on this blog through how James Bond follows these rules or breaks these rules, even though he may have been following conservative conventions of his time that many iGents are unaware of. I also present the conventions that Bond follows and his tastes as a British gentlemen, though I don’t always acknowledge that there are other tasteful ways to dress if they aren’t relevant to James Bond.

Pierce Brosnan’s look in The World Is Not Enough is timeless, yet it’s also completely within the confines of 1999 menswear

As much as I hate to admit it, conventions in fashion change all the time. ‘Classic style’, whether it refers to James Bond or Cary Grant, is timeless in that it may always look good, but no style can be completely devoid of the trends of a specific era. I do my best to judge clothes based on how they reflect their times, how they suit the person wearing them, and how balanced the design is. While dressing well is open to much interpretation and varies by culture and generation, I do my best to explore the menswear styles of the past hundred years and relate them to how Bond wears his clothes. And I use my eye for design to evaluate the clothes on their own terms. Though colour schemes change with trends, a colour scheme that may look outdated can still look balanced and can still flatter the person wearing it. While the idea of a good fit has changed with trends that have promoted fuller or closer fits, clean lines have always been the mark of a good fit and serve as the highest standard for a good fit. Some things about menswear never change.

The formal clothes of the past eighty years (the essentials of menswear haven’t changed in this time) started out as less formal clothes, and often as sporty clothes. The morning coat is now the most formal garment that people wear in the daytime and has been for almost a century since the frock coat fell out of fashion, but it was originally developed for horseback riding. The lounge suit is by far the most formal garment that many people wear today for life’s most special occasions, but it was formerly an everyday garment that started out as casual clothing. We still see less formal clothing become more formal, with white tie almost extinct and black tie taking the more exclusive place that white tie held. Jeans are no longer just workwear but are accepted for many dressier occasions today.

Why is Bond wearing a suit and tie in Mexico City? His Day of the Dead costume made sense, but why wear a suit under it? Bond, like the iGent, simply likes wearing a suit.

One thing that James Bond and iGents have in common is that they both hold on to the more formal ways that people more commonly dressed in an earlier era. In the 1960s through the 1990s, Bond’s look was that of the businessman in a suit and tie, albeit one with more sophisticated tastes than the average businessman. But today Bond still maintains his suited image, though now he doesn’t blend in with a crowd as well as he used to. Bond seems overdressed in a suit and tie in Spectre’s pre-title sequence. But Bond also holds himself to higher standards and isn’t going to dress like the average Joe. Though Craig’s Bond has more in common with regular people than previous Bonds have, he dresses in a fancier and more formal way than most people do to set him apart. iGents agree with this aspect of the modern Bond as he relates to the world.

Bond always dresses in contemporary styles with one foot in the past, while the iGent may keep both feet in the past. Bond pays homage to the past and remembers the rules and conventions the character has always followed, but he never looks like he’s wearing historic costume. There’s always something in his clothes that is updated to reflect contemporary trends, whether it be 1970s flared trousers with Roger Moore’s otherwise 1930s-esque dinner jackets or a 2010s shrunken fit on Daniel Craig’s otherwise 1960s-styled outfits. It’s a way that Bond always looks classic and classy yet hip.

Part two of this series will look at how Bond dresses in relation to iGent rules conventions and how he dresses in ways that follow the conventions of post World War II British style that iGents often disagree with.


  1. Much too much attention is being focused on Bond’s clothes these days. The wardrobe seems to have become more important than the plot of the film. When I first began watching Bond films in the early 60s we may have subliminally noticed that Bond was well dressed but focused on the character and the story. Nowadays the film seems mainly a vehicle to flog clothes to those who are obsessed with trying to dress like Bond. I hesitate to use the term..but it fits…”wannabes”

    • To be fair, I think at least part of this reflects the ability to now search out this information easily on the internet. Novelist Jay Mcinerney wrote about how watching the early Bond movies growing up, he liked the clothes but had no idea who or what Savile Row even meant… only that the suits on screen looked a hell of a lot better than the ones his dad wore.

    • Wonderful. Finally a person, who thinks like me. I am a James Bond Fan since 1977 and in the first 30 Years nobody of my James Bond Friends discussed about Clothes, Brands or Lifestyle. We loved James Bond on different ways, but mostly about the Location, the Cars, the Gadgets, the Plot or the Girl. I am James Bond Fan, but i don`t want to be like James Bond or to live his life. I often think about those People, who only duscuss this things, are wannabees or have no own life to live.

      • I don’t to live James Bond’s life or be him, but I don’t see anything wrong with taking an interest in his wardrobe.

      • What makes your particular likes and favourites in the world of James Bond any more or less relevant than those of someone else? There is no graded membership here. Liking the clothes does not make someone more or less a fan and it isn’t very becoming to look down one’s nose because their fandom doesn’t meet your own. I’ll take a gentlemanly wannabe over whatever that is any day of the week.

    • You seemed to have missed the irony of your leaving this comment on a website titled The Suits of James Bond.

      • I agree that some of the Bond lifestyle-focused social media content is over-the-top and rather off-putting. I do my best to avoid it. But that does not apply to this blog which is, for the most part, a rather academic look at the way Bond dresses. I understand the bone you are trying to pick, but this is the wrong place to do it.

      • Why do you feel that way, FS?

        I’ve never had any particular issue with The Bond Experience (which I follow on YouTube) and Bond Lifestyle, but I’m also of the opinion that if one isn’t interested in that facet of the Bond fandom then they are not forced to look at it. I personally find comments such as Walter’s and Wolfgang’s to be in poor taste considering how some of the content creators they allude to are personal friends of Matt’s.

      • I generally agree with FS… I do enjoy Bond Experience and a lot of the other ‘lifestyle’ oriented content, but sometimes it gets a little over the top. I often find there isn’t much curation about whether a piece is good, bad, or hideous… only whether it was worn on screen in a recent (or upcoming) Craig movie. In that sense I find it’s a bit more oriented to collectors (and particularly those of the Craig-era movies). But as Jovan points out, we can always change the channel if it’s not for us.

      • That’s a fair point. But maybe they feel it isn’t up to them to make judgements regarding whether something is good or bad, they simply want to offer the service of showing what was worn, used, driven, etc. for those who are interested.

  2. I you don’t understand a rule or convention, I suggest breaking it in front of a mirror; you will probably figure out why it exists in the first place.

    Light shirts with dark jackets is a good example of this; I’ve never seen anyone wear a dark jacket and a dark shirt and look good, or as good as they could if they wore a lighter shirt. This is something I actually figured out for myself when I tried wearing a dark green shirt with a navy blazer. It looked awful.

    Other ‘rules,’ like not wearing loafers with suits, are easily broken without anything looking amiss. If you aren’t sure whether to follow a rule, convention or custom then break it and see how it looks.

  3. As I said before,
    We are not here to imitate or to cosplay. We are here to look at how we can create the best versions of ourselves by using Bond as a platform.
    If you are looking to wear a necktie with a 007 logo on it and have a watch with sean Connerys face perhaps this website isn’t for you

  4. Convention and taste are one thing. Dress for the occasion is also important.
    But dressing up just a notch can be a guilty pleasure and have an effect. A bit off-topic but a personal experience.
    I was having dinner on my vacation in Britanny in a rather nice restaurant, nice linen and so on but not a Michelin 3-star. I was in my favorite summer Air Force blue blazer, French blue shirt and chinos.
    « Are you there for business ? the waitress asked
    – No, on holiday, and realising why she asked, but occasionally I dress up for dinner.
    – Thank you, we are fed up with people in flip flops, thank you very much Sir.
    And the safari jacket and white linen shirt, so practical for travelling, got a compliment at the TGV bar. So dress for your holiday ! Pack a blazer !
    Sunny regards from France

    • I generally have the same experience. If I’m the only one wearing a jacket the only unusual reaction I get is compliments, if any at all.

    • Greetings from the States! (From a Canadian expat.)

      Éric, I’ve also had favourable experiences dressing up a bit for a nice dinner out. But what makes just as good an impression is being as nice as you look, regardless of where you go. For example, at Elephant Bar we got a dessert compliments of the staff because we were the only table that wasn’t rude to them and three sheets to the wind at 19:00! No, it’s not a place James Bond would go. (Barbecue is one of the things they serve after all.) But it has a nice, varied menu, a good atmosphere, and we try to treat it as such.

      • I agree. Being well dressed (or at least trying) can only go with being nice and polite.

  5. This was informative and it is exactly my thoughts too. I do follow classic style and convention but there are times that you may bend the rules. Bond did that with slip-on shoes or sandals with suits. One must look the whole image and evaluate if it works. I agree with the light shirt with the suit to accentuate the face. I have yet to see anyone wearing a tuxedo with a black shirt and tie look good. That look just looks muddied or trying to hard. The tuxedo (dinner suit) should be, in my opinion, a study in black and white and should not detract from your companion.

  6. Thanks Matt, I enjoyed the article. Lots of talk of enjoying the clothes being a less merited method of fandom in the comments. I quite disagree.

    Fandom comes in many shapes and sizes and Matt’s odyssey here to chart what Bond wear and, for me, to a large extent, why, has been a great resource for me in maturing my own personal style, taking inspiration and finding great makers of great clothes.

    Matt has helped me, not that he knows it, find a great shirt maker, a great tailor and set my interest in certain shoe makers. I find the thought that goes into these articles absolutely fascinating and long may they continue. I enjoy my sense of style being challenged, expanded or enhanced by the ideas these articles give me.

    It’s clear a lot of time spent ends up on the page.

    Keep it up.

  7. This is a very timely editorial. I’ve found this blog intersects with the iGents in many ways for obvious reasons, but I think I’ve learned more from here than any other sartorial discussion online because its the 60s spies got me interested in elegant dress in the first place.

    The one thing that is really different now to any other period in my lifetime (I’m 51), is that the transitional period of the casual-ization in men’s dress that began in the 1990s, and helped make Brosnan indeed appear to be a “dinosaur” at MI6, is well and truly over. Even Goldman-Sachs doesn’t require a jacket or tie in the office any more. I think the rise of the iGent was initially inspired by Mad Men not Bond, and they certainly took the Kennedy-era lean suits to an extreme, but Craig has inspired their dress at the most luxurious level.

    The crucial difference between now and previous eras is that the default for almost everything is really casual. The end result being that the iGents, in proposing dressing up in daily life a la Bond, seem to me to have more in common with the rebels of the past who refused to wear anything but casual clothing as an act of defiance against a suited and booted mainstream culture. The suits are now part of a counter-culture, even if its a consumerist one.

    That’s happened before: the Mods also went to great lengths to look better than their employers. The difference was that their employers were also in suits. The iGents are rebelling agains employers in jeans. This would have been inconceivable to the Bond producers before Craig.

    What would Terence Young have done to prepare Connery for the role if they were starting off now instead of 1962?


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